French School. “Watteau was not only the inventor of Fetes galantes, and the most exquisite colourist among French artists of the eighteenth century. He was a poet-painter who transfigured the frivolities of his time into dream-like scenes.” (Sir Claude Phillips.)
LONDON, WALLACE COLLECTION
FETE IN A PARK In the foreground on the right is a group of four ladies and a gentleman seated on the grass, and on the extreme right another gentleman standing with his back to us in front of a high pedestal on which is a statue of a nude woman seated. Beyond this group, amid the trees, is another. In the left foreground are two little girls playing with a dog, and beyond them, in an open space with bright sky, more figures.
“This fine picture is one of the chefs-d’oeuvre of the master in size, grace of action, harmony, power of colouring, and spirited execution.” (Waagen.)
It is a larger and later version, with variations, of No. 389 in this collection.
THE MUSIC PARTY In the centre of a paved terrace stands in profile to left a musician, his right foot raised high over a stool, tuning his theorbo, which rests on his right thigh. On the left, facing him, is seated a group of three ladies and a gentleman, and behind them, standing with his back to one of the pillars of a lofty portico, another gentleman. On the right foreground is another figure sitting by a bowl on the ground. The open background is said to be a view of the Champs Elysees.
“In power and transparency and broad and spirited treatment, this picture is one of the most admirable by the master.” (Waagen.)
LE RENDEZVOUS DE CHASSE Two ladies are already seated on the grass at the edge of a wood with their cavalier, and a third is being helped to dismount on the right by her cavalier, whose horse stands on the extreme right.
Painted in 1720.
Probably the last of the master’s works.
EDINBURGH, NATIONAL GALLERY
FETE CHAMETRE A party of ladies and gentlemen are grouped in a woodland glade opening on a peep of distance and a sky of blue and white to the left, and enclosed to the right by a large white marble fountain surmounted by a reclining nude figure on the right and a large vase in the centre. Below this vase a lady in a white and blue dress stands holding out her skirts on either side, facing her partner in red and yellow and a purple cloak, who is footing it opposite to her on the left to the strains of a piper seated on a stone bench to the right. On the grass at the piper’s feet sits a youth in red and a little girl, and extending across the picture beyond the dancers is disposed a row of ladies and gallants in brilliant costumes. The light falls from the left.
Bequeathed by Lady Murray, 1861.
BAL CHAMPETRE A party of ladies and gentlemen assembled in two groups, one on either side, under a colonnade with caryatides. To the right in the middle ground the musicians near a buffet; to the left in the foreground a pair dancing. In all, seventy-three figures. A fountain and high trees in the background.
A copy of this picture (one of the most important and best preserved), by J. B. Pater, is in the Wallace Collection.
L’EMBARQUEMENT POUR LA CYTHERE On a mound under a group of shady trees on the right a girl is seated near a terminal figure of Venus, which is decorated with garlands, in a brilliant pink and white satin dress, a fan in her hand, listening with bowed head to a ” pilgrim ” who is whispering in her ear. A cupid has hold of the hem of her dress. On the left of this group is a cavalier helping a lady to get up, and in the centre another couple standing. Beyond, at the foot of the mount, a company of ” pilgrims ” in fancy costume accompany their fair partners to a barque at the edge of the lake, which stretches away into the background between beautiful hilly banks.
Painted in 1770 as the artist’s diploma work. It is characterised by de Goncourt as “la gaiete de plus adorables couleurs de la terre surprises dans un rayon du soleil,” and by Theophile Gautier as “vrai comme la nature et brillant comme une apotheose d’opera.”
GILLES A full-length figure, nearly life size, of this character in the Comedie Italienne, standing on a mound fronting us, his arms hanging at his sides. Dressed as Pierrot in a white tunic with long sleeves swelling into folds at the elbows, and loose white trousers, a falling ruff, and a broad-brimmed cap. Behind him on the right are seen (on a level with his knees) the heads and shoulders of the other characters: Columbine seated between in a red tunic, and Mezzelin, the latter in profile on the extreme right, his left arm outstretched; and on the left, a little higher, the Doctor, with a ruff round his neck, mounted on a donkey. A brilliant landscape background, with shady trees at either side.